Chesapeake Bay Watershed Angling Summary
Welcome to Reel Chesapeake’s Weekly Fishing Report, our interpretation of what’s biting and where throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Please email us directly at email@example.com to share updates and photographs of your recent catches for potential inclusion in next week’s column.
Two cold fronts, both of which brought scattered rain, blew through the region this past week and lowered air temps from highs of 80F down to the 60s and overnight high-30s. This coupled with a new moon waxing toward its first quarter made for a challenging bite throughout many of the tidal and freshwater fisheries of the Chesapeake Bay region. Tides mellowed out this week and will continue so, until we reach the full moon cycle beginning Friday, May 5th. All of this is to say that anglers had their pick of excuses if they came up empty, but fortunately enough reports of decent catches did come in to put together a picture of what’s biting and where.
Charter captains working Maryland’s middle to southern portion of the Chesapeake Bay, from Poplar Island toward Point Lookout and beyond are starting to catch the season’s first speckled trout. Reports of fish in the low-20” range came this week from those working shallow water (4—7’) around the islands on the eastern side. Lures employed included 6” BKDs and paddletails on 1/4 to 3/8oz jigs. Even Rapala XR10s got a few hits. With water temps hitting the 60F mark, this bite should continue to improve. Bonus: keep an eye open for bull red drum, which should start showing up in the same waters by next week (the full moon calls).
On May 1st, many portions of the Chesapeake Bay open to trophy striped bass season. Most tributaries will be catch-and-release only, and several will still be closed altogether, including the Patuxent, Choptank, Chester, and Nanticoke rivers, and upper portion of the Bay. Visit Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ striped bass maps for a refresher.
Expect the heavy-gear trollers to hit the main stem of the Bay next week in droves. They’ll be searching for cow stripers, but we’re already hearing that these big breeders have begun migrating out of the Bay. Light tackle jigging may be a better option to pull up mid-class stripers in the 30” range. Try the Bay Bridge pilings and the shallow-to-deep drop offs from many of the expansive points jutting into the Bay. Chunking fresh bunker from public, bayfront beaches is another tactic that could land you a whopper bass or blue catfish.
American shad continue to be caught in the upper Patuxent River and their counterpart, the hickory shad, are still in the mix, and throughout Potomac River hotspots. Smallmouth bass will also hit lures the further up the Potomac you go; same deal for the Patapsco River, and definitely the Susquehanna, so bring a few 3–4” white, curly-tail grubs in your bag.
In many rivers and creeks, we’re seeing white and yellow perch in the early stage of establishing their late-spring/summer patterns, hanging in deeper water and under docks, boathouses, etc. We even caught a couple large neds this week by pitching a 2” paddletail on a 1/8oz jig under a dock in an upper Severn River creek (see lead photo). And we can attest to crappie becoming easy pickings around wood cover in fresh water fed lakes, ponds, and creeks—stingers on 1/16oz jigs was the week’s winning lure.
If you’re fishing the headwaters of these rivers, you’ll also likely encounter common carp, which should be spawning within the week or two. You’ll know it by the bombastic splashing along the shoreline. A sign to move on, as you won’t catch those carp or any fish spooked by them. Northern snakehead are also spawning and the bite reportedly became much more difficult this past week. Look for it to improve once their eggs hatch and the adults are in protection mode. Sight fishing and irritating them with repeated casts of frogs, in-line spinners, and paddletails will be the ticket.
Lastly, a few quality reports are trickling in of blue crabs beginning to be caught in the deeper waters of Eastern Bay. The commercial contingent has been active and recreational crabbers are just starting to get their gear wet. It’s still early, but with each passing moon phase and better weather next week (reaching 70s and steady sunshine hopefully), the crabs and many species of fish will push further up the Bay and into its many tributaries.